Living with High Standards

I have high standards for myself. I’ve been told that I have impossibly high standards for myself, but I disagree about the impossible part because I don’t often let myself down. I set standards/expectations for myself, and I meet my standards.

I’m probably a perfectionist. I think that anything worth doing is worth doing well, and if I can’t do something well, I’d rather not be bothered to do it at all. I don’t hit snooze on my alarm. I respond to text messages, emails, and phone calls as quickly as I can. I get mad at myself if I don’t think that I’ve done something well enough. (Ask the secretary of my school how often I apologize for doing something “poorly” in my own opinion.) I apologize profusely if I’m late for anything.

There is, in my opinion, nothing wrong with having high standards for one’s self. I expect myself to do well professionally and academically. I have high expectations for my personal life. If I don’t meet my own expectations, I consider myself to be a failure, and I beat myself up.

The problem comes from the fact that I tend to take my expectations and standards for myself and hold others to them. For example, I expect others to be as punctual and time-driven as I am. I get annoyed with people when they are late or when they don’t reply to communication as punctually as I would like. This is a problem. I cannot expect others to do things because it’s what I want. I can’t change other people. I can’t make them live up to my standards. I have to change me. I have to change my expectations.

This is part of being human. We have to live in relationship with one another and treat each other with respect. It isn’t respectful of me to demand that others meet my standards. Yes, I demand these things of myself, but I cannot rightly ask these things of my brothers and sisters. It isn’t my place or my responsibility to get annoyed with others when they are late or when they don’t do what I want. I can’t change them, and I shouldn’t either. But I can change me. I can change how I react to others.

I need to humble myself. C.S. Lewis defined humility as “not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” I need to get over myself and not seek to force others to rise to my expectations. I need to accept others as they are, to love others where they are. I need to worry less about what I want and what makes me happy. Instead, I need to focus on loving others as Jesus loved them.

And Jesus didn’t sit around yelling at people or getting annoyed with people because they were late for dinner or they took more than ten minutes to reply to his text messages.

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